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Friday, November 10, 2006

France tests new nuclear missile

France test-launched a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles for the first time today, eyewitnesses at the launch site said.

The M51 missile has a range of 6,000 km 50 per cent further than that of the missile currently in service. Developed by European aerospace giant EADS , the M51 will also be able to carry a heavier load than the M45 it will replace, and be armed with up to six warheads.
It was fired from the CELM test site at Biscarrosse, about 70 km from the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

The missile rose straight into the sky with a low roar before arching westwards over the Atlantic Ocean, leaving a trail of white smoke in its wake. Defence Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment on the launch and it was not clear whether the test had been completely successful. A heavy police presence was in place around the missile testing centre to prevent disruption of the launch by environmentalist groups.

The submarine-launched missile is due to come into service around 2010. Its enhanced accuracy is designed to reduce ''collateral damage'', according to the defence ministry.


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